Interstellar (and 5 other times the organ kicked ass)

It comes as no surprise to many of us that Zimmer would seek to push the limits musically in Nolan's latest boundary-breaking space odyssey Interstellar. There is a reason the dynamic Nolan-Zimmer duo is making such great waves in the world of cinema. Like them or hate them, they are a force to be reckoned with.

I've always been fond of Nolan's movies, though I'm hesitant to put them on the same list as some other of the "greats". Interstellar, like the Batman trilogy, Inception, and the Prestige, is another sort of story-telling vehicle than most other movies, which in many ways, placing it in a realm of its own.

As for Zimmer's role in the creation of this galactic epic, he was spot-on in his choice of the organ as a driving musical force. This isn't the first time we've heard the organ in cinema (even in Zimmer's own music), but Zimmer used the organ in some cool ways many aren't accustomed to hearing. In fact, many aren't accustomed to hearing the organ at all.

The organ was the perfect choice because the instrument is so colorful. It's such a visual instrument, bombastic and flamboyant, but capable of the most tender and intimate sounds. Organs aren't just awesome sounding, but they are crafted to look great too. They take up such a large space wherever they are built. They become the space. The room itself is the instrument. Hearing the organ from the sound system and seeing freaking space, galaxies, and wormholes on screen was itself transcendent. You felt present in the score and the film as well.

So, before we go giving Zimmer too much credit, let's step back a bit and check out some other examples of the organ being used awesomely. Not to overshadow what Zimmer has created in the Interstellar soundtrack, but the organ's been around a looooong time and Zimmer barely scratched the surface of the instrument's capabilities.

In no particular order (click title for links):

1. Pårt's Passio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi Secundum Joannem

It's hard to beat Pårt, let's be honest. His musical influence over pretty much all contemporary music, especially film music, is astounding. And when he busts out the organ (which is pretty frequently) you best get ready for some action. The YouTube clip I attached begins in the final moments of the piece. Of course, I recommend the whole thing, but it's an hour long.

2. Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony

This piece (3rd movement linked here) is just plain fun. Listen.

3. Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb

I love this quirky piece. A lot. The solo sections are beautiful, but the organ writing (as with all of Britten's keyboard writing) is outstanding. I've linked to the second half or so of the piece when the organ just booms over the choir. When I performed this piece live in college, the organ was so loud I couldn't hear anything else. My ears were ringing and my body was shaking. Just like when I saw interstellar. I couldn't help but draw that comparison when watching the movie in theaters.

4. Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra

Speaking of comparison, it's hard to avoid drawing parallels between Interstellar and 2001: A Space Odyssey... Including, also, I think, the use of the organ. But who knows for sure.

5. Duruflé's Requiem

This is just lovely. Lovely. In so many ways. The organ does so much to add to the general texture.